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North Island’s medical health officer says the most important, and definitive, intervention we have for this pandemic is vaccines.
Charmaine Enns added that the health restrictions that we’ve seen over the past 18 months has bought us time before vaccines were available.
“All of those public health interventions, all of those recommendations, all of those restrictions that we’ve had to endure as a population have been to try to limit transmission until we had the intervention.”
B.C.’s new COVID case counts have been rising again, particularly among those who aren’t fully vaccinated, but Enns says that is to be expected.
“I am not at all dismayed by the numbers like what we’re seeing, the vast majority, I think 98 percent of all new cases in B.C. are in people who are either unvaccinated or only have one dose,” she explained. “So being fully vaccinated is the ticket.”
She points out that just two people on Vancouver Island have been infected with COVID after getting two doses of a vaccine.
Enns says that being fully vaccinated doesn’t make you 100 percent immune, however, she predicts that the number of people with two doses getting the virus will be very small, moving forward.
“And those people who are fully vaccinated and get COVID are going to be protected from serious disease, and they’re not going to end up in hospital, and they’re far less likely to transmit to someone else,” she said.
“So I cannot overemphasize what it means for us to be vaccinated. It is the definitive intervention.”
Vancouver Islanders are on board with B.C.’s COVID vaccination program.
Island Health is tied with Fraser Health for the second highest vaccination rate among the province’s five health regions.
To date, 82 percent of people 12 and older in the region have received one dose of a COVID vaccine, while 61 percent are fully vaccinated.
Vancouver Coastal Health, with rates of 85 and 63 percent, respectively, leads the way.
Vaccination rates by health authority are:
First dose: 74 percent
Second dose: 58 percent
First dose: 82 percent
Second dose: 64 percent
First dose: 85 percent
Second dose: 63 percent
Vancouver Island Health
First dose: 82 percent
Second dose: 61 percent
First dose: 68 percent
Second dose: 51 percent
Enns also touched on the mask policy as it stands now in B.C., and when they must be worn.
“There is a public health recommendation that if you have not had two doses to wear a mask in indoor public spaces, but it is not mandatory,” she said.
She said wearing a mask is most advantageous in situations where there is a high circulation of COVID, but most importantly for people who are infected, so they don’t spread the virus to others.
“So wearing a mask doesn’t protect you, as much as it helps reduce transmission if you’re positive. So I think sometimes the population might not be fully aware of what the role of mask-wearing is. The reason why masks became mandatory is because we were having circulating community transmission of COVID before we had vaccines.”
She said it’s naïve to think that we are protecting ourselves and each other by wearing masks, adding that the best way to do that is to get fully vaccinated, stay away from people if you are sick, and wash your hands.